What can we do about House Bill 2?
Polls show North Carolinians divided about the new law. Answers to polling questions depend upon how the questions are asked. Most North Carolinians, even supporters of transgender rights, do not want men to barge into women’s bathrooms.
And most, even those who disagree with the lifestyles of gay and transgender people, do not want our state to discriminate against them.
Some politicians in both parties think the controversy will help them at election time. As former Gov. Jim Martin wrote recently, “The political reality is that this works great for both political parties. Each side can stand up for its respective, favored constituents. Democrats can stand firm in defense of liberal constituents and principles. Republicans can stand firm in defense of conservative constituents and principles. Neither has to listen to the other’s legitimate concerns. Each can righteously blame the other for overacting.”
But most other North Carolinians do not want to continue to fight about this matter if it means our state will lose new businesses, NCAA basketball tournaments, NBA all-star games, concerts, conventions, and tourists. Most do not want to risk loss of federal funding for roads, education or housing. No one relishes the uncertainty and high costs that could result if litigation is the pathway to settling the issue.
Mainly, folks do not want our state to lose its good, positive name because of our inability to resolve this challenge expeditiously.
Would it be possible for a small group of public-minded citizens to design a pathway out of this crisis?
I believe that a panel of people of goodwill representing both supporters and opponents of HB2 could come up with a solution that would be acceptable, maybe not perfect but acceptable, to a large majority of North Carolinians and would be viewed as nondiscriminatory by the gay and transgender communities.
“Good luck,” I can hear you saying.
Sure enough, it would be challenging to assemble such a group, for it to agree on recommendations that would be viewed as fair, and would get the attention of a legislature and a city council which, so far, have shown no interest in backing away.
But what have we got to lose by trying?
Who would serve? I would try to find well-known and respected people of different viewpoints, former politicians who love North Carolina more than their parties, ones with courage to take the heat.
Former governors like Martin and Jim Hunt.
Respected former or retiring elected officials who have no further political ambitions, such as Elizabeth Dole, Kay Hagan, Richard Stevens, Jennifer Weiss, Leo Daughtry, Rick Glazer, Bill Cobey, Richard Vinroot, Harvey Gantt, and Joe Hackney.
Commentators from different political persuasions such as Carter Wrenn, Gary Pearce, Tom Campbell, and John Hood.
Who would appoint such a committee and give it authority? Either the General Assembly or Gov. Pat McCrory could and should establish such a committee. I am not holding my breath. But they could surprise us because, deep down, they also care more about North Carolina than political advantage. If they do not act, former governors Hunt and Martin could do the job.
Other potential organizers are groups of business and professional leaders and their organizations, religious groups, non-partisan public affairs groups like the League of Women Voters, and any other group that feels a call to rescue our state in its time of need.
What possible solutions could the group recommend?
Nothing would satisfy everybody, but the group could start with the possibility of one step back for everybody. Ask the Charlotte City Council to suspend its ‘bathroom” ordinance’s effectiveness for 12 months and the General Assembly to repeal HB2 and assign a study commission to make recommendations for the next session.
Impossible, maybe, but worth a try.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.